What is DDR4 Memory?

What you need to know about this memory type

Double Data Rate 4 Synchronous Dynamic Random-Access Memory (DDR4 SDRAM) became the standard in PCs with the release of the Intel X99 chipset and Haswell-E processors and 6th-generation Intel Core processors. DDR4 replaced DDR3, which was the standard until around 2014.

Here's what you need to know about DDR4 RAM.

Crucial DDR4 Memory
Crucial DDR4 Memory. ©Micron

Faster Speeds

Like each iteration in RAM standards, DDR4 arose primarily to address faster processor speeds in computers. DDR3 was around for so long, however, that the speed jumps were larger than the previous bump in RAM. For example, at the time of DDR4's introduction, the fastest JDEC standard DDR3 memory ran at 1600MHz. DDR4 memory speeds start at 2133MHz, a 33-percent speed increase. The JDEC standards for DDR4 also specify up to the 3200MHz speed which is double the current DDR3 1600MHz limit.

DDR3 memory is available at speeds upwards of 3000MHz, but this is overclocked memory that is running past the standard and with much higher power requirements.

As with other generation jumps, the increased speeds also means an increase in latencies. Latency refers to the gap of time between the memory controller issuing a command and when the memory carries it out. The faster than memory gets, the more cycles it tends to take for the controller to process it. With higher clock speeds, increased latencies generally don't impact the overall performance because of the increased bandwidth for communicating the data in memory to the CPU.

Lower Power Consumption

The power that computers consume is a major issue, particularly when you look at the mobile computer market. The less power components consume, the longer a device can run on batteries. As with each generation of DDR memory, DDR4 once again reduced the amount of power required to operate. This time, the levels have dropped from 1.5 volts to 1.2 volts. This difference may not seem like much, but it can make a big difference with laptop systems.

Can You Upgrade Your PC to DDR4 Memory?

Back in the transition from DDR2 to DDR3 memory, CPU and chipset architecture was much different. This meant that some of the motherboards from the era had the ability to run either DDR2 or DDR3 on the same motherboard. You could get a desktop computer system with the more affordable DDR2 and then upgrade the memory to DDR3 without having to replace the motherboard or CPU.

These days, the memory controllers are built into the CPU. As a result, there is not going to be any transition hardware that can use both DDR3 and the new DDR4. If you want to have a computer that uses DDR4, you will have to upgrade the entire system–or at least the motherboard, CPU and memory.

To ensure that people do not try to use the DDR4 memory with DDR3-based systems, a new DIMM package has been designed. The new memory package has the same length as the previous DDR3 modules but a higher number of pins. DDR4 uses 288 pins, compared to the previous 240-pins at least for desktop systems. Laptop computers also face a similar size but with a 260-pin SO-DIMM layout compared to the 204-pin design for DDR3. In addition to the pin layout, the notch for the modules will be in a different position to prevent modules from being installed in the DDR3 designed slots.